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More patients consider using telemedicine programs as coronavirus concerns grow

HOUSTON – As coronavirus cases continue to pile up across the globe, people are looking for ways to avoid large public crowds and offices. If you need to visit your doctor, a virtual “telehealth” appointment may be the answer.

Plushcare is a subscription service connecting patients to doctors at 50 top medical schools. With flu season in full swing and coronavirus in the headlines, the company said virtual visits are up 30% since December.

It's ramping up for more.

“We have over 2,000 physicians on a waitlist that want to work for Plushcare,” said Plushcare co-founder Ryan McQuaid. “We can very quickly bring them on board to meet a significant increase in demand.”

According to Mercer’s annual survey, by 2019, telehealth services were available to nearly 90% of employees of large companies, though fewer than 10% were using it. Coronavirus could change that.

“I think it’s a key opportunity for people to learn what it is, get registered and utilize it in a way that’s more motivating than in the past for most people,” said Mary Kay O’Neill, MD, a Mercer clinical consultant.

Teladoc Health is the largest in the space offering services in 175 countries with almost 37 million paid memberships and another 19 million fee-based visits last year.

Teladoc Health’s chief medical officer said it’s uniquely equipped to play a critical role in this evolving global outbreak. Still, patients are slow to try it out.

“You just don’t need to see a doctor very often. The chance to use it is not very frequent,” explained James Wantuck, MD, of Plushcare. “It doesn’t spread as rapidly as some of the other technology out there. Healthcare takes time people need to build trust.”